Anti-glycolytic training on the bike

I have some questions regarding sprint training.

First some background:
I am a long-time competitive cyclist. I’ve been using TR Since 2014 and am extremely happy with it. I took up cross country mountain biking at the age of 40 (3 years ago) and realized I needed to do more (any!) strength training. I didn’t want to rehash my high school football weight routine — bench press, squat, deadlift — because it hasn’t kept my interest. In last year’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast with Kelly Starrett, he recommended kettlebells and suggested Pavel Tsatsouline’s Strong First as a good resource. I have been working through the their Simple and Sinister plan since last October. It consists of kettlebell swings and Turkish getups. The kettlebell swing seems to be very much in line with Lee McCormack’s row/anti-row focus for mountain biking. The getup is excellent for core strength and shoulder resilience. I have been amazed at the results so far. I am about a month away from the “simple” standard - 100 one arm swings and 10 getups with a 32kg ‘bell. This year my race weight is 65kg/143lbs and I’ve only gained about 1-2 pounds body weight over last year. FTP was 305w - on par with the last 3 years. I’m stronger overall than at any other time in my life, and am almost never sore. On Coach Chad’s recommendation, I space the strength workouts as far as I can from my TR workouts and they have not adversely effected my rides.

Given the success with Simple and Sinister, I plan to move to the snatch version of the “Quick and the Dead” (Q&D) protocol when I get into next year’s race season/specialty phase. In a nutshell, Q&D involves very high power reps for very short durations and ample rest. It does so by increasing the number and size of mitochondria. Pavel calls the training “anti-glycolytic”. (Here are some articles for reference. and . Strong First also has a seminar called Strong Endurance which purports to have programs aimed at endurance athletes. I have not attended, as the seminars cost around $900.) My goal would be improved high intensity power with a reduction in overall stress, especially in the specialty phase.

The anti-glycolytic training seems like it could be adapted to sprint training on a bike, rather than just strength training. A workout following the anti-glycolytic protocol might look like

2 to 5 sets of [4x(10 seconds at > 250% FTP, 20 second rest) followed by 2:20 rest]

This workout design is very specific to metabolism involving draining the CP system and maximizing AMP production to stimulate mitochondrial growth, while minimizing glycolysis. (That’s my summary. The first article linked above has more detail.) Q&D improves power, but is also supposed to increase endurance.
I remember Coach Chad discussing sprint training on the podcast (last winter?) so I looked for some sprint workouts which were similar to the one I just described. Black Giant, Cockscomb, Gardiner, Tyndall, etc are similar, but they tend more toward 15-30 second efforts with less rest and lower power.

This brings me back to the questions.

  1. Have you run across “anti-glycolytic” training as it pertains to endurance sports?
  2. If so, are they an effective addition or substitution in a well rounded training program, such as the build-base-specialty plan?
  3. If no to the above, can you give an explanation for the metabolic processes in the current sprint workouts - 15-30 seconds at around 130%? I’m guessing they are just an “easier” VO2max workout, like Spanish Needle.

Thank you!

The attached may be of interest.

If you are looking to adapt yourself to increased loadbearing of the ATP-PC system these exhaustion/re-synthesis workouts would appear to be effective.

Additionally, if you’re looking to train this system more effectively you can always supplement Creatine Monohydrate, which will add additional inputs - the larger intracellular stores of creatine will drive short term adaptation. Be aware, however this can cause gastric upset in some people, weight gain in others, and some people are ‘non-responders’ to it.

Strength training is greatly benefited by creatine supplementation, so it would stand to reason that anaerobic sprints will also benefit.

Sounds a bit like the interval workout used in these studies:

I.e., 10 x 6 seconds at maximal effort, with 114 seconds of rest between efforts with one leg, followed by enough maximal 30 second efforts (one every 20 minutes) with the other leg to match the work performed by the first leg.

6 seconds of sprinting didn’t result in any increase in lactate (so was “anti-glycolytic”), but also didn’t result in any increase in mitochondrial enzyme activities. There was, however, a significant increase in PFK activity, an important rate-limiting enzyme in glycolysis.

30 second sprints, OTOH, resulted in significant increases in the activities of multiple glyolytic enzymes, and also a small increase in mitochondrial enzymatic capacity.

Performance of both legs improved equally.

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This sounds very similar to the Maximum Overload for Cyclists strength training book. The culmination of the program is 6 walking lunges plus a 10 second rest. The author claims to have seen large gains in the athletes he’s helped train. When I started doing them, four sets of six would shred my legs and I’d have DOMS for days.


Thanks all. They were informative articles.
I found the website of Vershansky, who was referenced by Tsatsouline in the book.
Many of the articles are in Russian, which I don’t speak…

I may be mis-applying or reading too much into this idea. Applying the anti glycolytic idea for endurance athletes may be more useful simply in supplemental strength training than in adapting it to on-bike workouts.

That strongfirst site sounds like good marketing but I’m guessing that there is nothing there you couldn’t figure out by yourself.

A friend, who is an experienced lifter, was working with a personal trainer who was prescribing similar sounding workouts. It was basically mini-sets followed by a rest. He felt like he got a fantastic workout from it in just 20-30 minutes. I thought it was interesting because it sounded exactly like Maximum Overload that I was doing.

I’ve read about Adam Hansen doing a similar on-bike workout at the beginning of an endurance ride. He’d do 10 x 8 second sprints. The idea is to train phosphocreatine utilization by hitting them over and over and letting them fully recharge before every interval.

Sounds logical, but the phosphocreatine system isn’t really trainable. Any benefit to such workouts would have to be the result of something else.

Back in March I read the anti glycolitic articles on StrongFirst and after searching for more found this one:

Have seen excellent results doing 8 swings on the minute for 13 minutes (104 swings). That was part of my prep to doing a 10-week block of resistance training and the plan includes max sprints on the bike. I’m nearing the end of that plan. I’ve tested really low on glycolitic flux (VLAmax of 0.29) so I’m not concerned about being more glycolitic on the bike.

Have you seen a lot of benefits from the program?

I followed the Maximum Overload program religiously over the winter and felt like I got good benefits. My sprinting improved and a lot of old man aches and pains no longer bothered me. I’ve slacked off and am getting back on it.

Yes, the FasCat resistance plan is very good and seeing early results. Hoping it establishes a great foundation for base.

I spend a lot of time researching metabolism… but never heard of this before, probably because I don’t really read many training materials, so that’s not a judgement at all.

KB swings and stuff like that is great off-bike training for anyone, regardless of all other factors. But you’ll get a good neural stimulus too if you’ve got very little strength background, and that’ll lead to more motor unit recruitment and… more glycolysis. Glycolysis is a filler pathway activated by typical signals like ADP and AMP, and un-activated in a similar reciprocal manner. They’re not a substitution for anything since there’s not a ton of 1:1 equivalents on:off bike, but as long as they don’t cause undue fatigue and affect your bike workouts, they certainly won’t hurt.

This is interesting. There’s a lot of ways to grow mitochondria… I think there’s one called endurance exercise :slight_smile: In some people it’s also excellent training of 1min power. There’s a reason so many people can do a long training block, take a solid rest, and post a new best 1min. Must have happened at least 5x or more to my athletes this year. But anyway, some of the reasons that 15-30 second efforts, either as one-off with longer (4-5min rests is typical in the literature) or very short rests for intermittent work (10-30 seconds or something like that) has several potential mechanisms for aerobic improvement. One of the big ones is sarcoplasmic calcium leak, and the cell “sees” elevated calcium levels which looks like longer contraction, and that activates blah blah blah for mitochondrial growth. But it goes away after some amount of training, and then you’re left with other more typical reasons for adaptation that may or may not be effective. Again, all depending on many other factors.

To answer your third question… I have no familiarity with those workouts, but I can speak to a little bit of what’s happening metabolically. Depending on how well trained you are and how hard the efforts are, your glycolytic system will “turn on” at different rates due to presence of signals, on the order of seconds. Shortest I’ve seen yet is 4 seconds from 0 to max, longest around 15 seconds (steady ramp). What may be lost in some of these anti-glycolytic articles is that even stuff that takes 10 seconds may in fact have a large glycolytic component. And aerobic recovery of PCr will still involve flux through glycolysis and oxidation of lactate. In a workout like 4x10sec very very hard with 20sec rests, I promise there will be glycolysis. In fact, maybe I’ll do this tomorrow with my lactate meter and report back. I’ve got a 2150w sprint and a <200w FTP so it’s going to hurt kind of a lot. I’ll do a set at 250% FTP for a warmup since that’ll be nice and easy. Also, I think there’s no such thing as an easy vo2max workout :slight_smile:

Something else that should be considered is muscle fiber recruitment. But that’ll be the topic of an upcoming podcast, so I’ll wait to flesh those ideas out a bit more.

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Uh…this exact thing just happened to me!

Now that I have the knowledge to why, I guess I have to stop pretending I’m some kinda Superman. :cry:

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Tempted to give this a go. Seems fairly similar to Tabata intervals, just more rest?

Ok so I just did that. I was on my cross bike on a grassy field, probably a bit too soft, bumpy and grass too long. Sprint execution could be better too… No powermeter, I just went close to full on, which should be over 250% ftp. I did 4 sets of 10s sprint, 20s rest, and 2:20 rest in between (the last set I did with standing starts cx style, but it messed up the recovery timing).

Anyway, some observations. These might be highly personal, but I was wondering about a few things.

  • 10s is just too short to make it hurt. Does that mean I need to go longer, or harder, or is that correct, because we want to avoid acidic build-up?
  • I don’t really get a HR response until the set is over. That might just be my very slow to react HR though, or is it because there isn’t actually an aerobic contribution? Does that mean it works?

The last couple of key workouts I’ve been doing 4 sets of 4x 15-seconds all-out and 90 seconds off, with 5 minutes rest between. Its actually harder than it sounds. Here is yesterday’s workout:

Got dizzy in 3rd set and had to get off the bike for 60 seconds during a 90 second recovery. Tasted some bile in my mouth at the end. Some of that is because of smoky air from fires burning in California, but it is definitely a hard workout.

That looks more ‘classic’ sprint training, with longer recoveries. The workout I did above had only short 20s recoveries between sprints, and then 2:20 between sets. I thought that was by design. The 20s definitively aren’t enough recovery, and the 2:20 just barely. I was wondering if the recovery between sets should be longer.

This is my workout…speed and HR, no PM. (The first set I was still finding gears, distance etc, the last set I messed up the timings)

its a variant of classic sprint training. Over the last month I’ve gone from 4 sets of 4x15-sec on/off with 5 minutes rest between), to doing maximal 4 sets of 4x15-sec/90-sec on/off with 5 minutes rest between. I’m not concerned at all with anti-glycolytic.

I have used the anti-glycolytic protocol with kettlebell swings and the reason was as a beginner I was more concerned about form and only doing 8 swings every minute allowed me to focus on form. The results were impressive and I was very happy.

That was “fun”. Finally stopped raining, and there are predictable results.

2 sets of 4x10sec at 250% FTP (500w) with 20sec rests during sets, 2:20 rests between sets. Blood lactate went from 1.7 to 3.8, breathing through my nose, no difficulty. Delta 2.1 mmol/L. Didn’t measure after first set, but yes, moderately glycolytic.

1 sets of 4x10sec max sprints, 20sec rests. Issues with shifting on this to keep the cadence in the normal range. 10sec avg went from 1500 on the first one to 900 on the last one. Lactate went from 2.0 to 18.2mmol/L, delta 16.2. Whoever said 10 seconds is too short to make it hurt can’t call 1900w peak a not good sprint. This is actually the most lactate I’ve seen myself have for 40 seconds of work.

I’d normally go into a long winded explanation of this, but anyone want to take a stab at what’s happening here, if 10 seconds is, in theory, not long enough to be glycolytic?

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I’m not sure what the question is? We were taught in ex fizz that flash activation of glycogen phosphorylase occurs almost instantaneously at the onset of exercise. Are you torturing yourself just to disprove some misinformed bro “science”?

So you just straight up have something against @empiricalcycling hey? Between this and his podcast thread(s) your little “debates” are getting rather tiresome.

Debating him? I’m agreeing with him! I’m just wondering why he bothered to prick himself, since the whole “anti-glycolytic” notion is obviously hogwash.

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